It’s the question you face every time you build a daily fantasy basketball lineup – which of these top guys is worth the money TONIGHT? Yes, you always want to find values, but there is usually enough money left over for that one stud, and whether you get that superstar on a 35 or a 65-fantasy-point night can make more of an impact in a hurry than any of those value plays you stressed about. Well, I started a conversation about positional strategy in your NBA lineups depending on whether you were entering a GPP or some other kind of tournament earlier in the week. And even though it is something you could analyze basically forever, we can wrap up our thoughts on it here. At least for now.
There are a couple of ways to build a lineup: you decide of cheap options you know you want and then build up from there, or you decide on a mid-priced player or superstar or two you know you want and you fill in around them. Well, either way can work, but here’s one piece of advice for each strategy: if you pick your stud last after starting with value options, don’t just take the most expensive guy you can still afford; if you pick your stud first, you need to be flexible. You can’t simply choose from the same rotating stable of three or four guys every night, because you are limiting your choices too much. As long as you are open to players outside your normal biases, can accept new phenoms when they start to emerge, etc, you can be fine.
Once you accept that either of these methods can work, there are two ideas still left to unpack to fully get a grasp on the topic. One is the idea that the choices made on your superstar players are dramatically MORE important than the choices you make on value priced players. Intuitively, the cheaper players, who are less consistent, just feel riskier, and so that is often where we focus our attention when building our lineup. For our more expensive players it can end up being, “well, this guy is good, and I know him and like him and see him on Sportscaster, and he costs $10,300, which is exactly what I have left!” No. You have to pay even MORE attention to the matchup, and the last ten, and last three games to see how the player is trending, because the very best superstars have the widest range of outcomes.
Let’s say your guy averages 42 fantasy points a game, and has only scored fewer than 30 twice all season. Super consistent, right? Yes. But you’re paying for the average and for the consistency, and that player has a 30 point range in outcomes – when a player has a floor of 30 and a ceiling of 65, and you’re paying for them both, you better hope for that 65 point game, because otherwise that money was better spent elsewhere. That 30 point game represents a lost 35 points, not anything gained. And your value plays? They maybe have a range of something like 20-35 points, give or take – the potential for a big swing in your overall score just isn’t as dramatic.
The point of the last article on this topic, basically, was that there is way to calculate the value of consistency. That you could look at the peaks and valleys of a player’s fantasy points, not just the average, and give credit for those players with the highest floors, so to speak. And, when you looked at that list, especially in the #11-20 range, there was a decided tilt towards Power Forwards and Centers, towards “big men.” And a discussion of how this is actually logical, etc… check it out.
But reading that, you might think I’m nuts. That a guy with a higher fantasy point average is clearly better, and that is that, ands you know what? Maybe you’re not wrong. But you need to be aware that when that is how you begin your analysis, you are playing for upside. You are playing, in effect, for GPPs. If you want to, instead, maximize your chances in a 50/50 or something similarly smallish, then you want to avoid the valleys, and find the players who come by their fantasy average honestly.